Literary scholars talk of ‘genre’ when they refer to a specific type of literature. In modern literature examples might include the legal thriller, the love poem, the graphic novel or the cookbook.
It is not always clear which categories (if any) people in the Middle Ages found important. However, we can try and find out from the manuscripts whether scribes have assigned the texts they copied to certain categories.
Discourses on love (Minnereden), for instance, are texts with clear identifiers, and they are very often transmitted with one another. This can lead us to believe that medieval scribes, like us, thought that they were similar and belonged to a group (even if there is no medieval name for them).
Our French manuscript, fr. 837, contains many texts that are labelled with words that look like generic identifiers. However, some of these labels have much clearer meanings than others.
Some texts seem to belong to different genres in different manuscripts: ‘fol est qui fol boute’ is treated as a play on words in one manuscript, and a proverb in another manuscript.